Experience-based Gift Giving: Bring your Family Together in the Kitchen with Chef Gino’s Taste Test Challenge

Parenting Tips

Fresh pasta bundles made as a family using Chef Gino's Taste Test Challenge cookbook

Fresh pasta bundles made with family and friends using Chef Gino’s Taste Test Challenge cookbook!

With the holiday season in full swing and the biggest shopping days of the year behind us (Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday), I think about gift giving and the types of presents I want to send family and friends this year. The gifts that my husband and I value most are acts that show we care and quality time, so we typically don’t give traditional gifts. We tend to spend money on experiences and things we can do and enjoy together. One of our very favorite things to do together is eating a delicious meal!


If there is something I love as much as eating yummy food, it’s the magic that happens in the kitchen preparing a meal with the people I love. Creating a delicious feast is, even more, fun now that I have my own little “Sue” to help.

Shiloh is my sous (or assistant) chef.

Shiloh helping-ish in the kitchen








Spending time in the kitchen with my best girl lets her observe the cooking process, learn to use utensils, and sample the ingredients (to make sure they aren’t poisonous, of course! 😉). Having her in the kitchen not only actively introduces her to food through observation and participation, it also allows her to explore new cuisines and develop healthy eating behaviors and attitudes.  Cooking is one of the ways I bring experience-based learning into my kitchen because including children in meal preparation is empowering, encourages kids to try new things, and reduces the likelihood of picky eaters.

Sous Chef Shiloh taste testing to make sure the meal isn’t poisonous!

Sous Chef Shiloh taste testing to make sure the meal isn’t poisonous!

Sous Chef Shiloh taste testing to make sure the meal isn’t poisonous!









So, this holiday season, I’m proposing that you make gift giving about experiences and ways to engage your family throughout the year. As you have probably guessed, my favorite way to do this is with the prospect of something tasty! I cannot think of a more delicious way to celebrate the season than gifting a cookbook designed to get families in the kitchen with easy-to-follow recipes and a whole lot of fun.


Which brings me to a new cookbook I am extremely excited about, written by celebrity Chef Gino Campagna entitled, “Chef Gino’s Taste Test Challenge” which promotes engaging children with food in the kitchen.


Chef Gino Taste Test Challenge cookbook perfect for gift giving

Chef Gino’s Taste Test Challenge cookbook!


After picking up my very own copy of Chef Gino’s Taste Test Challenge, I invited some friends with kiddos over to help make one of the easy and delicious recipes from the book: fresh homemade pasta! They are still talking about it!


Child kneading pasta dough.

Jonathan kneading pasta dough like a pro!

Child helping with a pasta roller

Ellis helping with the pasta roller!









Not only did the kids love helping make the pasta, they loved eating it too!
Families serving up fresh homemade pasta.

Serving up fresh homemade pasta, sauce, garlic bread and salad!


Chef Gino is dedicated to teaching children healthy eating habits through the art of cooking. His philosophy is that if kids are involved in their food choices and preparations, they will be more motivated to try new, nutritious foods. This is exactly what experience-based learning is all about. So, I contacted Chef Gino and asked him to tell us a little more about his book and the importance of cooking with kids.



Chef Gino, what is special about involving kids in the cooking process?

Chef Gino:

What goes in your food is something everybody should be worried about. Processed food, food prepared by someone else contains stuff I promise you don’t want to eat. Just look at the labels! It’s important that we all, children included, take control of what we eat. What better way to do that than learning about ingredients and how to cook them?


Chef Gino teaching kids about ingredients and how to cook them

Chef Gino teaching kids about ingredients and how to cook them.



You often speak about “Food IQ”. What is it and why is it so important?

Chef Gino:

I mention Food IQ a lot. For me, your Food IQ is defined by how deep your knowledge of everything food is: from ingredients to recipes, from the science to the history. I started teaching cooking to children when I came to the States in the early 90s. Immediately I realized that American Kids’ Food IQ was low compared to their Italian counterparts. I think we’ve seen progress since then, but we still have a lot to do.


Yes! Kids don’t know where their food comes from, how it is grown, or even how ingredients becomes their favorite meal! I love that you include the idea of cooking in Food IQ.



Chef Gino's Taste Test Challenge Cookbook teaches about a variety of leafy greens

Chef Gino’s Taste Test Challenge Cookbook teaches about a variety of leafy greens



As a Chef, what do you tell parents of picky eaters?

Chef Gino:

If they cook it, they will eat it! Expose your children to the wonderful diverse universe of food from a very young age. Don’t give in and don’t give up: your kids will thank you growing up.


Simple practical things help with picky eaters: take your children with you shopping (farmer markets are best), talk to them about ingredients, when preparing meals offer variety….Picky eaters are not BORN like that, they are created!


Chef Gino Teaching kids how to use a pasta roller.

Chef Gino says, “if they cook it, they will eat it!” Teaching kids how to use a pasta roller.



Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more!

Why did you decide to write a children’s cookbook? Why now?

Chef Gino:

I have been working with children all my life and the last 20 years I’ve been teaching children how to cook. My background is in education and a book seemed like a beautiful way to close a path, my journey….and to open another one of course! AND you can’t ever have enough cookbooks!


Yes! I have a rather large cookbook collection myself!

Chef Gino, what is your favorite food and/or favorite meal to prepare?

Chef Gino:


I have a soft spot for Pasta all’uovo (fresh pasta). I’m fascinated by the concept that by mixing eggs and flour you give yourself the key to create literally thousands of dishes. It also represents a powerful memory for me as I was growing up. My mom is a fantastic pasta maker and I would watch and help her create the most amazing Tortelli or Cappelletti.

Remember: nothing wrong with pasta in moderation and as part of a well-balanced diet.


And there is nothing quite like a bowl of homemade pasta! I think you can taste the love in every bite! Thank you!


Chef Gino’s new cookbook for kids is filled with fun facts about the history of food, step-by-step guides, and engaging photos that the whole family will love.

Chef Gino rolling out tortillas with kids

Chef Gino rolling out tortillas with kids!

Chef Gino's Taste Test Challenge Cookbook Crepe Recipes

Recipes with drool-worthy photos!









It’s time to get creative in the kitchen and purchase (or WIN!) a gift your whole family will love. Shiloh and I are already enjoying our copy together!



And… since we are extremely passionate about experience-based gift giving and taste-testing, we are excited to offer this book as a giveaway! Five lucky winners will receive a copy of Chef Gino’s Taste Test Challenge! Four chosen from Facebook and one from Instagram (@experience.delicious)! Giveaway ends Monday, 4 December at 11:59 PST. The winners will be announced 5 December. You may enter the giveaway on both Facebook and Instagram to increase your chances of winning. Check out our Experience Delicious Facebook Page for details on how to enter!

You can purchase your copy of Chef Gino’s Taste Test Challenge HERE!


Final Thoughts

Gino’s challenge is all about taste testing, but I have a challenge for you too! What can you do to engage your family with food? Trying new things like cooking together or sampling new foods is fun and can help decrease picky eaters. Use your copy of Where Do Bananas Come From? A Book of Fruits to try a new, unusual fruit each week or a family favorite prepared in different ways such as fresh peachs, grilled peachs, or peach salsa!


Do you love to involve your kiddos in the kitchen? Tell us about it!


Find more in the hashtag #nutritiontidbits


Rodale Kids write up about the book:

Celebrated Chef Gino Campagna knows a BIG secret: ANY KID CAN COOK!

The recipes in this book are simple, easy to follow, and best of all―TASTY! They’re also open-ended so you can add your favorite flavors and creative flair. Inside young cooks will find delicious and nutritious dishes, from basic pasta and pizza doughs to Ginestrone (aka minestrone) soup and Guac Amore (aka guacamole) to French toast grilled cheese and Fruity Pops, that the entire family will enjoy preparing together. After all, cooking is a team sport!

So what are you waiting for? Step into the kitchen with Chef Gino, challenge your taste buds, and most importantly, HAVE FUN!

dani of kid food explorers

Hi there! I’m Dani.

Mama of three, pediatric dietitian, and founder of Kid Food Explorers, a resource hub and learning platform that empowers families on their journey to raising confident, adventurous eaters. We’re on a mission to make food fun, with interactive food play and STEAM activities that help kids learn about food in a playful, pressure-free way.

fun with food kids activity book

Explore new foods together!

Watch your kids grow into confident, adventurous eaters using our fun food activities and children’s books as your guides.

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